- Former Jackson County Deputy Zachary Wester was arrested and charged with 52 counts related to pulling over drivers, planting drugs like meth on them, and arresting them.
- Nearly 120 cases involving Wester have been dropped, and more are being reviewed.
- While some victims are pleased with the charges, many others who served time or received probation because of his actions feel that the damage is already done.
- In one case, a victim lost custody of a child, and in another, a victim was forced to serve a year in rehab.
Former Jackson County Deputy Zachary Wester was arrested and charged Wednesday for pulling over drivers for minor traffic infractions, planting drugs on them, and then booking them for possession.
According to a statement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Wester was arrested on “felony charges of racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment.”
This morning, FDLE arrested former Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy Zachary Wester on a litany of charges, including racketeering, fabricating evidence, and false imprisonment. #arresthttps://t.co/9McYv4FT6G pic.twitter.com/fkO1oRcJCs— FDLE (@fdlepio) July 10, 2019
He was also charged with “misdemeanor perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia,” the statement said. Together, Wester faces a total of 52 separate charges.
It is unclear how much prison time he could get. The Washington Post reported that State Attorney William Eddins, who oversaw the case, told reporters Wester could face up to 30 years.
The Tallahassee Democrat said that the racketeering charge alone has a max penalty of 30 years, and the other felonies have max sentences of five years.
However, they also reported Eddins saying that under Florida’s sentencing guidelines, Wester would only face 13 and a half years if found guilty on all charges, noting that a judge could give him more.
While Wester was only arrested on Wednesday, the charges against him came as part of a nearly year-long investigation.
Wester was reportedly hired by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in 2016. In August 2018, the Sheriff’s Office asked the FDLE to launch an internal investigation into his conduct after a prosecutor found inconsistencies between his reports and what was captured on his body camera.
Specifically, prosecutors said he turned his body camera off most of the time, and only turned it back on after he had already found the drugs in the vehicles he was searching.
Additionally, in most cases, Wester would pull someone over for a minor traffic infraction and then ask them if he smelled marijuana, which would give him probable cause to search their car.
Despite the fact that Wester would write in his reports that he smelled or thought he saw marijuana, he would usually turn his camera back on to show he found meth.
Even in cases where the people he pulled over actually were suspected of crimes or admitted to having marijuana in the car, Wester still planted the meth, according to the affidavit.
As a result of the investigation, Wester was suspended on Aug. 1 and then fired a month later. Prosecutors said they would not file charges until the FDLE investigation was complete.
The investigation took a while because there was a lot of evidence to review. According to the FDLE statement, during the investigation, their agents, “analyzed over 1,300 minutes of recorded video and logged over 1,400 working hours on the case.”
In that footage, the investigators found one of the few instances where he kept his body camera on during a search.
In that incident, Wester had pulled over a woman named Teresa Odom, claiming her brake lights were not working properly.
In the bodycam footage, Wester is seen holding something that looks like a small plastic bag in his hand. He then puts his hand out of view under the driver’s seat and returns it without the baggy.
Wester later booked Odom for possessing meth.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, deputies who searched Wester’s patrol car during the investigation found “42 pieces of drug paraphernalia, ten baggies of methamphetamine and five baggies of marijuana concealed in an unmarked and unsecured evidence bag in the trunk.”
The Tallahassee Democrat also reported that prosecutors reviewed nearly 300 cases that involved Wester, and dropped the charges in nearly 120 cases, including Odom’s.
However, Eddins said that there was no evidence that Wester planted drugs or fabricated arrests in all of the cases, and noted that the charges are based on his arrests of 11 known victims named in an affidavit, though there might be more.
“Our investigation is ongoing,” he told reporters Wednesday. “There’s a substantial amount of work to be done. But I have no belief that there’s anywhere near 100 victims. We may have identified most of the victims, we may (have) not.”
“There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,” Chris Williams, the FDLE Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the case said in a statement.
Though many cases have now been dismissed, for a lot of people, it is too little too late.
In 2017, a man named Benjamin Bowling lost custody of his daughter after he was convicted on felony charges for possessing meth that Wester said he found in his car.
At the time, Bowling had been released from prison a few months earlier and was being drug tested. Bowling also reportedly requested that the Sheriff’s Office turn over the bodycam footage and test the drugs for DNA and fingerprints, but they never did.
The same year, a man named Jeffrey Helms and his girlfriend April Middleton were also pulled over by Wester and arrested for possessing meth.
Middleton reportedly was in jail for a few weeks before being released, but Helms, who had prior charges, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Unfortunately, that is not even where the damage Wester did to the Helms family stops. Jeffrey Helms’ sister-in-law Erika Helms told the Tallahassee Democrat in September that her own brother was also arrested by Wester for possessing meth.
Although his charges were dropped after Wester’s arrest, it was not done until after he was forced to spend a year in residential rehab.
“He’s ruined lives,” Erika Helms told the Tallahassee Democrat. “People are losing their lives, their freedom, their children, their marriages — all because of this one man. It’s not just innocent men. It’s innocent children. It goes a lot deeper than everyone realizes.”
See what others are saying: (The Tallahassee Democrat) (The Washington Post) (Fox News)
How Safe Injections Sites in the U.S. Are Fighting Back Against The Opioid Crisis & Do They Work?
America has been hit with a historical opioid crisis. In 2018, more than 31,000 people died from opioid overdoses, which is more than any previous year recorded in American history. Healthcare professionals and public health experts are offering alternatives to the status quo treatments, which leads us to today’s topic: supervised injection facilities (SIF).
Also known as overdose prevention sites and medically supervised injection centers, SIF’s have been proposed as a solution to combat America’s opioid problem. In these centers, no drugs are supplied to the users—they bring their own and are given clean syringes to prevent bloodborne diseases. Advocates or these sites are saying that they would stop countless fatal overdoses because there would be medical staff on site. Countries like Switzerland, Canada, and Australia have implemented versions of these facilities and so far there has not been any reported fatal overdoses at a SIF in the world.
While cities like Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, and Philadelphia have all proposed plans to make sites, they have been met with heavy opposition. The federal government opposed these sites because they claim it breaks federal laws and some residents in these cities are against them due to concerns over attracting more crime. In this video, we’ll be focusing on Philadelphia, as it might become the first U.S. city to legally open a supervised injection facility, along with the court case between the non-profit who is trying to establish the SIF and the federal government.
Elon Musk Defends Calling Rescue Diver “Pedo Guy” in Lawsuit
- In court documents, Elon Musk defended a tweet where he called a diver who helped rescue the Thai soccer team from a cave a “pedo guy” because it “was a common insult used in South Africa.”
- The diver sued Musk for defamation last year after Musk sent an email to BuzzFeed where he referred to the diver as “child rapist” who had taken a “child bride who was about 12 years old.”
- The court documents from the suit, which were made public Monday, also revealed that Musk paid a private investigator more than $50,000 to look into the diver.
- Musk also said he gave the statement to BuzzFeed based on information provided by the investigator, and because he was concerned the diver could be the next Jeffrey Epstein.
Court Filings Made Public
Telsa CEO Elon Musk defended calling a rescue diver “pedo guy,” court documents revealed Monday.
Musk originally made the comment in July 2018, after Vernon Unsworth, a British diver who helped rescue the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave last year, gave an interview to CNN where he had some choice things to say about Musk.
Notably, Unsworth said the submarine Musk had designed to rescue the soccer team would not work and that it was just a PR stunt.
Musk responded by calling Unsworth a “pedo guy” in a now-deleted tweet.
He also sent an email to BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac, in which he accused Unsworth of being a “child rapist” who had taken a “child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”
Musk said he thought the email was off the record, but BuzzFeed said they never agreed to that. In September 2018, Unsworth filed a defamation lawsuit against Musk in the Central District of California.
Court filings from the defamation suit against Musk were made public on Monday.
Musk Defends “Pedo Guy” Tweet
In those documents, Musk claimed that referring to Unsworth as “pedo guy” was not a direct accusation of pedophilia.
“‘Pedo guy’ was a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up,” Musk wrote. “It is synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and is used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanor, not accuse a person of acts of pedophilia.”
“I did not intend to accuse Mr. Unsworth of engaging in acts of pedophilia,” he continued. “In response to his insults in the CNN interview, I meant to insult him back by expressing my opinion that he seemed like a creepy old man.”
The fact that Musk is arguing he was expressing his opinion is important in this context because under the First Amendment, opinions are usually protected speech and not considered defamatory.
The documents also included Musk’s deposition, where he talks more in-depth about the “pedo guy” tweet.
In the deposition, Musk said he sent BuzzFeed the email because he was worried it could turn into a Jeffrey Epstein situation, referring to the wealthy financier who was accused of sexually assaulting dozens of young women, including many underage girls.
“What if we have another Jeffrey Epstein on our hands?” he said. “And what if he uses whatever celebrity he gains from this cave rescue to shield his bad deeds? This would be terrible.”
Musk’s Epstein argument might become problematic. First of all, he made the statements to BuzzFeed before the new allegations surfaced, which some have argued proves he just is using current news to frame Unsworth in a certain way, and that he did not actually consider Epstein at all.
That argument is also furthered by the fact that it has been reported that Musk had attended several events with Epstein, all of which were after Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from an underage girl in 2008.
Notably, Musk also said in the filings that he paid a private investigator more than $50,000 to investigate Unsworth after receiving an unsolicited email from the PI in August 2018.
In the documents, Musk says that the investigator: “reported that Mr. Unsworth met and began a relationship with his alleged Thai wife when she around twelve years old.”
He also added that the investigator “reported that Mr. Unsworth associated with Europeans who engage in improper sexual conduct in Thailand,” and that he “learned that Mr. Unsworth frequented Pattaya Beach which is well known for prostitution and sex tourism, and that Mr. Unsworth was unpopular at the rescue site because other rescue workers thought that he was ‘creepy.’”
Musk goes on to say this was the basis for the comments he made in his email to BuzzFeed.
“I did not authorize Mr. Mac or BuzzFeed to publish the contents of the email nor did I intend or expect that they would,” he said. “Especially without first independently verifying and confirming its information.”
He later added that he gave the information to Mac “so that BuzzFeed could conduct its own investigation into Mr. Unsworth and corroborate the information.”
Musk’s lawyers even admitted in the court filings that the private investigator’s findings “lacked solid evidence of Mr. Unsworth’s behavior.”
Following the release of the court documents, Unsworth’s lawyer gave a statement to BuzzFeed condemning the Musk’s defense.
“The motion filed by Elon Musk today is a disgusting and transparent effort to continue falsely smearing Vernon Unsworth without any credible or verified supporting evidence,” the lawyer said.
“Mr. Unsworth’s opposition to Musk’s motion will reveal the whole truth of Musk’s actions and the falsity of his public statements and his motion with respect to Mr. Unsworth will be exposed.”
See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Controversy, Racism, and Genius Kids?! How One Sperm Bank Changed Everything…
The Repository for Germinal Choice is the most controversial sperm bank in U.S. history. While it was operational some people believed this bank was racist and they even compared the companies goals to Nazi eugenic practices. But even though this sperm bank was highly controversial, it also completely changed the sperm bank industry.
So check out our video for the full story on how this controversial sperm bank would go on to shape an entire industry.